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The use of technology to increase student “ownership” of their learning

A book review by Itiya Aneece, PhD student in Environmental Sciences and Tomorrow’s Professor Today Alumna

Itiya Aneece

What role should students play in their learning? How can teachers guide them in fulfilling these roles, and how should today’s technology be implemented to increase student involvement in significant learning?

As teachers, we want students to engage in deep learning, not simply learning class concepts, but skills they shall use long after the class is over. Such learning requires guidance by teachers, student involvement in their learning, and students being held accountable for learning and involvement (Davis and Murrell 1993).

It is well known that students develop more, learn better, and retain information longer when they are active participants in their own learning (Davis and Murrell 1993, Astin 1999). Additionally, student responsibility in the classroom aids in student development as responsible and informed citizens outside the classroom, who will in turn influence the condition of higher education in the future (Davis and Murrell 1993).

How, then, do we promote student involvement? Chickering and Gamson (1987) suggest encouraging student and faculty interactions, developing student-student cooperation, encouraging active learning, providing timely feedback, managing time to stay on task, defining high expectations, and engaging various talents and learning styles among students. Bates and Poole (2003) suggest curricula that don’t have too much material, opportunities to learn independently, and assessments that test deep learning. Students can also be involved in planning the curriculum of a course and determining methods of assessment (Bates and Poole 2003).

Technology can be implemented to increase student involvement in those ways. Although the various forms of technology available to students today can be a hindrance to learning if used inappropriately, there is a large potential for the use of this same technology for increasing student involvement in their learning. I have mentioned several pitfalls of technology and some ways to avoid them in another blog ( In this blog series, I will talk about the role that technology can play in helping students take charge of their learning and how teachers can demonstrate appropriate use of technology for learning both inside and outside the classroom.

Specifically, I shall reflect on how one can

  1. decide what technology to adopt
  2. incorporate technology into pre-existing classroom designs
  3. redesign a classroom to enhance student involvement
  4. assess enhancement of student learning with this newly adopted technology

Itiya Aneece is pursuing a PhD in Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia. She has taught the Fundamentals of Ecology lab since the Fall of 2011, has recently completed the Tomorrow’s Professor Today program, and enjoys exploring new ways to encourage learning.


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